This year while the online world fretted over patent law, wrestled with SOPA, developed a love affair with crowd funding, and rode the Facebook IPO, Main Street retail experimented with and embraced the intersection between the physical and the virtual. Here are just a few of the experiments that took place:
Peapod developed virtual stores with QR code-enabled shopping experiences in public spaces, such as the Chicago “L”, where customers could scan products and “Commuters can get orders started on the platform, manage shopping lists and schedule deliveries—for the next day or even several days or weeks in advance—during their train rides,” according to Peapod.
Shopmox played consolidator, grouping multiple brands such as Gap, Old Navy, Urban Outfitters, Banana Republic into virtual shopping mall accessible via a customer iPad App with a serious hat tip to Pinterest, too.
eBay figured out how to grow PayPal even further by striking deals with retailers enabling them to capture new markets of the under-banked and credit card-less. One such retailer is Patagonia who built on its Common Threads initiative and launched an eBay storefront where Patagonia clothing owners can sell secondhand clothing.
Square competitor to PayPal, expanded the reach of its mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. It has set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today. While not a retailer they are making even the smallest enterprise retail-ready.
Bloomingdales transformed six store windows into augmented reality displays enabling passersby to try on virtual sunglasses from the street. User can try on up to 4 pairs by tapping them on the window.
Target launched it’s in-store rewards program Shopkicks that enables customers to accrue “kicks” by entering stores and scanning products. These are redeemable for Target gift cards, dining gift certificates and Facebook credits.
Warby Parker – designs its own glasses, selling them for $95, and it recently expanded into sunglasses ($150). The company keeps prices low by ordering from manufacturers and selling directly to consumers over the web with a free try before you buy program, avoiding expenses like brand licensing fees and retail markups.
The bottom line, for all retail is the use of technology has become a tool for transforming the retail experience. Some are struggling but many are making it marvelous. Look for more changes as the integration of the virtual with the physical gains momentum in the coming year